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J Nutr Biochem. 2005 Nov;16(11):641-9. Epub 2005 Aug 10.

Soy isoflavones and cognitive function.

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Central Research Institute, Dr Chung's Food Co., Ltd., Chungjoo-si, South Korea.


There is growing interest in the physiological functions of soy isoflavones, especially in whether they affect cognitive function and have beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases. Here we review the recent evidence from clinical and experimental studies supporting a role for soy isoflavones in cognitive function. Soy isoflavones may mimic the actions and functions of estrogens on brain, and they have been shown to have positive effects on the cognitive function in females; however, studies on their effects on spatial memory have not provided consistent results in males. Although data from humans, cultures, and animal models are currently insufficient for elucidating the metabolism of soy isoflavone actions on cognitive function and the nervous system, we suggest two putative pathways; (1) an estrogen receptor-mediated pathway and (2) via the inhibition of tyrosine kinase, in particular by genistein, which is one of the soy isoflavones. Although soy isoflavones appear to have a positive effect on brain function, further research is needed to determine not only the efficacy but also the safety of soy isoflavones on the nervous system and cognitive function.

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